Forget any romantic images you might have of novel-writing: that it’s nothing but staring out big picture windows at the sea and autographing copies of your books.
No, unfortunately novel-writing, even if you love it, is a draining, soul-sucking enterprise.
Ten months later, with the help of his neighbor’s faithful beagle, the novelist is nearly healed.
While writing my novels, I strive so hard to make each one the very best it can be, the work takes everything from me, leaving me creatively, emotionally and physically spent.
Since I finished A Truth Stranger than Fiction last December, I’ve written very little new material. True to form (this happens every time I finish a book), for most of this year I questioned whether I would ever write again. But as my best friends know, I started writing again recently—after a 10-month period of healing and refilling the tank.
“When the tank runs dry you’ve only to leave it alone and it will fill up again in time.” —Mark Twain
So what did I do this year to heal, to refill the tank? Let me count the ways…
I dusted and mailed copies of A TRUTH STRANGER THAN FICTION to friends, fans and reviewers.
I did a lot of cross-country skiing.
I went cross-country skiing with my dad, Big Al.
I went cross-country skiing with Alexas and drank beer.
I spent time with my best friend Brian’s dog, Milly.
I celebrated my 45th birthday with my best friend Brian and his family. Here, his boys made me a birthday cake: my favorite—gingerbread.
I went to the top of a mountain above Easthampton, Massachusetts. This is the view that inspired Dr. Seuss’s Grinch and his view of Whoville.
I started a new photography project: interesting barns. This one, on Chestnut Ridge Road outside of Millbrook, has been standing since I was a child. I would pass it on the way to my grandparents’ from Maine.
I hung out with my best friend Jason Scott, the Huck Finn to my Tom Sawyer.
I went shooting with my friend Bob Hanaburgh, here firing Dakota’s gun: a Sig Sauer .45 ACP. I shot very well, once scoring a 77 out of a possible 80.
I visited the top of Mount Holyoke (what a view!) with Alexas.
I took serendipitous photos—this one on the Vassar College campus.
I took photos of the place I love so much—the Millbrook countryside, a.k.a. “Wellington” from ONE HUNDRED MILES.
I visited The Breakers—the Vanderbilt “cottage” in Newport, RI—and the Tennis Hall of Fame.
I spent a weekend on Cape Cod.
I watched kite-surfing on the Cape.
I ate the best scallops I’ve had in 20 years, at a restaurant in Provincetown on the Cape.
I walked the beaches of the Cape Cod National Seashore, my trusty notebook ready to take notes.
I took long walks around Millbrook—here on my favorite road, Woodstock Road, which appears in 100 MILES and A TRUTH STRANGER THAN FICTION.
I snuck up on a young buck deer eating windfalls beneath an apple tree.
And herons overlooking still ponds.
I found covered bridges in Vermont…
…and drove through them.
I played golf with my best friend Brian (pictured), and another time with my best friend Jason.
Golf in Dover, Vermont.
I captured idyllic Vermont autumn scenes.
I stumbled on a Vermont heritage festival and church rummage sale.
Inspired by the scene, I sat down and began writing a new story.
I relaxed and enjoyed myself.
I spent a weekend with Alexas at my friend’s vacation house in Vermont. We relaxed in the hot tub, meandered through the state looking at the foliage, and spent evenings in front of a fire.
I saw amazing autumn scenes like this one.
I reread two or three dozen of my favorite stories by Guy de Maupassant…
…my favorite stories by Raymond Carver…
…and my favorite Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
I watched the HD restorations of the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series (that modern SHERLOCK can suck it).
I’ve been studying French intensely, as well as a bit of Spanish and German.
I made an apple pie.
I started playing chess again.
And I began writing again. :) Both indoors…
…and outdoors. Alone, and with…
…my neighbor’s faithful beagle, Goliath.